There are many different types of mental health disorders, any of which could affect any one of us at any time of our lives regardless of our age, gender, background or status. The most common type of mental health disorders are anxiety and depression related disorders.
Certainly, all of us can experience anxiety at times, especially when we have a particularly difficult situation to deal with, like taking a driving test for example, or going for a job interview, but when the anxiety is so severe that it disrupts our daily lives, then it could be that we are suffering from an anxiety- related mental health disorder.
Similarly, each of us know what it’s like to feel a bit down in the dumps, we may even say we are depressed, but true depression is where the symptoms don’t subside after a short period of time, they persist and are severe enough to impair our ability to carry out our normal routines.
The following list represents some of the more commonly known mental health disorders with a brief description of their typical symptoms.
A phobia is an anxiety related disorder characterised by extreme fear, perhaps fear of a situation, an object, a place or a creature and this fear is completely out of proportion to the norm. There are literally hundreds of known phobias but common ones include fear of public places, confined spaces, flying, spiders, and fear of heights. A sufferer will try to avoid their fear at all costs, and when faced with it, will experience severe anxiety which can include palpitations, nausea and panic attacks.
A panic attack can be a terrifying experience. Someone experiencing a panic attack is engulfed by overwhelming fear and panic often without warning. Various physical symptoms can accompany a panic attack, which include difficulty breathing, trembling, palpitations, dizziness, sweating, and nausea and a feeling of impending death.
Post traumatic stress
Post traumatic stress can follow an intensely disturbing experience such as a car crash, violence or rape, being in extreme danger or basically any event that causes severe psychological distress. The symptoms include constantly reliving the event in the mind through flashbacks and nightmares, disturbed sleep, anxiety and depression.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety related disorder manifesting itself in irrational and obsessive thoughts that spark illogical rituals and behaviours or compulsions, for example, constantly thinking (obsessing) that your hands are not clean causing you to repeatedly wash your hands (a compulsion). Other examples include excessive cleaning, checking and rechecking that doors are locked and windows closed etc. Someone with OCD can feel intensely anxious if they don’t carry out their rituals so performing them is a way to relieve their feelings of anxiety and distress.
Depression is more than a period of the blues. Clinical depression can be said to exist when the symptoms of depression persist for longer than a couple of weeks and are severe enough to interfere with normal daily routines. There is also a loss of pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed. There are many symptoms associated with depression including feelings of sadness and despair, lethargy, sleep disturbances, changes in eating patterns, sudden changes in behaviour and mood, anxiety, guilt, and thoughts of death and suicide. We can all experience some of these symptoms at times but when truly depressed these symptoms don’t just subside, they persist.
Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme fluctuations in mood with episodes of euphoria and mania alternating with episodes of depression and despair. During a manic phase the bipolar sufferer may need very little sleep, may think and talk very quickly, can be highly creative, appear completely confident and without inhibition, they could leave their job, go on a spending spree or behave in other potentially destructive ways. During a depressive episode they may experience strong feelings of hopelessness and despair and find themselves unable to muster the energy to do even the simplest of tasks. They may also withdraw from social situations and even contemplate suicide. Bipolar is a lifelong disorder affecting around 1% of the population.
Schizophrenia is a particularly severe kind of mental health disorder, which is characterised by hallucinations, delusions, and strange behaviour and beliefs.
Mental health disorders are complex so making an accurate diagnosis yourself can be difficult, many people will present with symptoms of more than one type of disorder and many of the symptoms of each disorder overlap with each other. Consequently, it is important to seek the right help. In the first instance you should speak to your doctor who will be able to make full medical assessment and guide you towards an appropriate course of treatment.
Sadly, many people are afraid of seeking help and as such, will suffer in silence which can be an isolating and lonely experience with potentially devastating effects. Fortunately, mental health disorders are treatable and those who do seek help can go on to lead normal lives once again.